A Derry man put the entertainment industry at risk of losing £120 million by putting unreleased films and TV shows on his website, a court has heard.
Paul Mahoney, who was described in court as a ‘social recluse’, caused an actual loss of approximately £12 million to the industry through his criminal activity.
The 30-year-old, from Carnhill, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud, acquiring criminal property and concealing criminal property.
The offences were committed between April 2008 and April 2013.
Derry Crown Court heard that Mahoney was ‘responsible for a highly sophisticated fraud which put at risk something like £120 million and made him over £280,000’.
A prosecution barrister told the court the victims of this fraud were not only the film studios, ‘but the tens of thousands of people who depend on the entertainment industry for their livelihood’.
The barrister gave the example of the TV show ‘Games of Thrones’ which is filmed in Northern Ireland and ‘makes a very significant contribution to the local economy’.
The court heard Mahoney first registered his website bedroommedia.com in January 2007.
The site looked ‘very professional’ and specialised in films that had not been officially released.
He used his own name and address to register the site.
Mahoney developed specialist software to trawl other websites to find illegal content.
He also employed others, who he did not meet face to face, to help him create software.
The Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) became aware of Mahoney’s activities and sent him a cease and desist order in April 2008.
This order requested Mahoney to close down his website.
However, he ignored this request and set up a new site in August 2008 called fastpasstv.com.
In late 2010, US law enforcement began cracking down on dotcom websites that were infringing copyright.
Mahoney then registered his site to another domain.
The court heard his site was very popular and provided links to almost 140,000 films and TV shows.
He claimed he was making up to £1,000 per day in advertising revenue and in total made almost £300,000 from his site.
FACT continued to monitor the 30-year-old’s activities and they reported their findings to local police.
In May 2011, police searched Mahoney’s Carnhill home and seized computers.
They also found over £82,000 in cash.
During police interview, Mahoney signed a disclaimer handing over the domain name to FACT.
He was released on police bail and three days later registered a new site.
The computers were forensically analysed and over one six month period, films on Mahoney’s website were viewed over one million times.
The court heard the 30-year-old continued to operate the new website until April 2013.
It is estimated that over the six years his sites were operating films which were illegally obtained were viewed 12 million times.
Defence barrister Martin Rodgers QC told the court his client was a ‘social recluse’ who had spent the last ten years in his bedroom.
He said Mahoney, who suffers from a visual impairment, left school at 14 without any formal qualifications.
The barrister added that the 30-year-old’s computer was his ‘only constant companion’ during his time as a recluse.
Mr Rodgers said Mahoney acquired a great deal of knowledge about computers and developed the website as a result.
He told the court the defendant did not live an extravagant lifestyle, but ‘squirrelled’ the money away.
The barrister added that ‘this enterprise took on a life of its own and became more successful than this defendant could ever have imagined’.
He accepted these offences ‘cry out for deterrence’ but the publicity generated by this case would have already sent out a strong message to those engaged in similar behaviour.
Judge Philip Babington adjourned sentencing for two weeks.
Mahoney was released on continuing bail to appear in court again on September 8.